Back from Africa: Reflections on an immersion trip to Kenya

Vern Davison is a Maryknoll friend and benefactor who recently went on an immersion trip to Kenya and Tanzania.   These are his notes and reflections:

Serenity isn't freedom from the storm,
it is peace within the storm.

The African culture has a serenity and Ubuntu  "I am because we are". plus a Swahili phrase "Poli-poli"... Go slowly with dignity,and community. God is great (African religion)
I will share what I learned and was transformed by their culture and religion with you over the next few days. I hope you find it  interesting.

We visited Africa from Feb 7th to Feb 25th. This was an immersion experience led by Maryknoll ...Deacon Matt Dulka and Fr Bob Jalbert, Fr Bob speaks Swahili fluently and was stationed in the slums of Nairobi for 20 years, which was very valuable for our experience. 

I extended my visit several days the guest of a Kenyan born priest Fr Paul which rounded out my experience.

We visited educational facilities, slums, Aids clinics, orphanages (due to Aids)  and had 20 personal home visits in the slums and elsewhere. plus hospitals and private homes.
We squeezed in a few days on Safari (pic to follow)

We were given orientation and introduction to African culture and African religion by the Maryknoll Institute for African Studies.(more discussion tomorrow)

 Next day we visited Kibera Nairobi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibera) see attached pic  the largest slum (over one million people) living in a tiny  area the size of Golden Gate Park no vegetation, no pavement, nor sanitation nor pluming. "Homes" are 10' x 10' ..boards, corrugated steel and a canvas floor. We visied other slums like it also. 3 apts in a triplex block with 8 to 12 foot 'road ways and 2 foot allies between blocks; open sewers run down the side of the walk ways. 80% 0f the 7 million in Nairobi live in slums. The other 20% have a robust exploding growth (among the highest in the world).


The Chinese have penetrated deeply into the Kenyan economy.

The poverty and social injustice (average pay is $2/day) is overwhelming but I penetrated it to find a spiritual sense of dignity and community; much more present there than in western culture.
I felt poor and they more wealthy. It was Transformative. A proud dignity not angry not destroyed by their "economic poverty". Later I learned it is a result of African religion; a true spiritual 'Joy' we do not normally experience, due to our culture of consumerism. 

"Blessed be the Poor" has a richer meaning for me now.

As Matt Dulka explained 'to raise their standard of living to the minimum US economic level there are not enough resources on Earth.' 
"They live in poverty so we can live in luxury"

To be continued
Great to be home but missing the African people even now.
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